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Does Discharge For Good Cause Preclude Employment Discrimination Or Retaliation Claims?

"Breaking the Silence: Confronting Workplace Harassment and Gender Inequality - Image 00118 00 rl"

Through their decades of experience representing wrongful termination victims, our wrongful termination lawyers in Marion County, Florida know that a common employment law myth is that employees terminated for good cause cannot bring employment discrimination or retaliation claims. An employment law myth that employers tirelessly promote by arguing that termination for good cause legally destroys any employment discrimination or retaliation claims. As a result of this employment law myth, many employees who have meritorious employment discrimination or retaliation claims never pursue their legal remedies.

However, as the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Matusick v. Erie County Water Authority, 757 F.3d 31 (2d Cir. 2014) observed, “[e]ven if the [jury] decides that [an employer] terminated the [employee] in part for legitimate reasons, the [employee] may prevail on his or her claim if he or she can demonstrate that his or her employer was motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory [or retaliatory] purposes.” In other words, even if a jury finds that an employee was fired for a legitimate reason and thus fired for good cause, the employee can still prevail on his or her discrimination or retaliation claims if the jury finds that the termination was also motivated, at least in part, by a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. Consequently, termination for good cause is not dispositive of an employee’s discrimination or retaliation claim.

In this article, our wrongful termination lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the decision in Garcia v. Yonkers Board of Education, 188 F.Supp.3d 353 (S.D. N.Y. 2016) shows that termination for cause does not preclude employment discrimination or retaliation claims.

Racial Harassment Lawsuit

In that case, a woman named Garcia brought a wrongful termination claim against her former employer, the Yonkers Board of Education (“YBOE”), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Title VII makes sexual harassment in the workplace an unlawful employment practice. To protect sexual harassment victims, Title VII also contains an anti-retaliation provision. Under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees because they complained about perceived sexual harassment. Garcia alleges that she was fired in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment.

Garcia worked as a mathematics teacher at Lincoln High School. Garcia alleges that she was sexually harassed by a fellow mathematics teacher, Pasian. According to Garcia, Pasian began by repeatedly asking her to go out for drinks, and his behavior escalated to the point where Pasian told Garcia that “he had a dream about her where he was licking her body, and then pushed her into an empty classroom, hovered over her, put his arms around her, and was saying they should be together.” On the day following this alleged incident, Garcia reported the conduct to the school principal and assistant principal. The assistant principal assured Garcia that she would talk to Pasian regarding his alleged behavior.

When Garcia returned for the next school year, however, the principal placed her in the same classroom as Pasian. Garcia claims she immediately reported her issues to a school administrator who arranged for a room change. Despite the room change, Garcia asserts that Pasian continued the sexual harassment by making sexual comments and gestures and sending students to Garcia with inappropriate messages.

In June 2013, the YBOE filed disciplinary charges against Garcia regarding an alleged incident with a student where called a safety officer regarding the student misbehaving in her classroom and an alleged failure to report to work. In October 2013, a hearing was held on the disciplinary charges pursuant to New York Education Law on the disciplinary charges. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer determined that the YBOE had good cause to terminate Garcia’s employment. Consequently, Garcia was terminated in November 2013.

Retaliation Claim Survives

The YBOE filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Garcia’s retaliation claim. In moving for dismissal, the YBOE argued that Garcia’s retaliation claim failed as a matter of law because the hearing officer determined that the YBOE had good cause to terminate Garcia. In denying the YBOE’s motion for dismissal, the trial court observed that courts have ruled that “termination for cause does not preclude the possibility of termination motivated by unlawful animus.” In applying this principle, the trial court explained a determination that the YBOE had good cause to fire Garcia “does not preclude a jury from later finding that [Garcia] was also terminated at least in part because of [retaliatory] reasons.” Consequently, the trial court concluded that Garcia’s retaliation claim under Title VII was “not precluded” by a determination that the BOE had good cause to fire her.

Free Consultation For Wrongful Discharge Victims

One of the most important decisions wrongful termination victims must make is which wrongful termination attorneys to consult with regarding their rights and remedies under employment discrimination law. As part of our dedication to helping wrongful termination victims, an experienced wrongful termination attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our wrongful termination attorneys regarding your rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.

Marion County Wrongful Termination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our wrongful termination attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of wrongful termination victims. If you have been wrongfully terminated or have questions about your rights as a wrongful termination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our wrongful termination lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes wrongful termination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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